Feeds

Astronomers witness birth of a mini-Earth

Distant rocky planets emerging from the dust

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

A long time ago, in a star system far, far away, an Earth-like planet is forming. It is actually only 424 light years away in a system known as HD 113766, outside the reach of your Oyster cards* but a mere stroll in astronomical terms.

Artists' impression of the forming planet

Artists' impression of the forming planet.

Scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope have spotted a very young star, just ten million years old, encircled by a huge disk of warm dust - more than enough to build a Mars-sized planet. The age and set-up look just right for the formation of rocky planets, the researchers say.

"The timing for this system to be building an Earth is very good," said Dr. Carey Lisse, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. "If the system was too young, its planet-forming disk would be full of gas, and it would be making gas-giant planets like Jupiter instead. If the system was too old, then dust aggregation or clumping would have already occurred and all the system's rocky planets would have already formed."

Lisse explains that the mix of materials is just right, too. Analysing data from the Spitzer, he determined that the dust is in conditions roughly halfway between the primordial (which we know about from missions to comets and from analysis of meteorites) and the stable planets we find in our solar system.

"The material mix in this belt is most reminiscent of the stuff found in lava flows on Earth," said Lisse.

He says the disk contains no water ice, carbonates, or fragile organic materials like those found when NASA smashed a probe into the comet Tempel-1. But nor has the mixture totally differentiated. That is to say, the metals are still mixed in with the rocky materials. When planets are formed, the metals collect in the centre (although the mechanism by which this happens is still hotly debated).

"It is fantastic to think we are able to detect the process of terrestrial planet formation. Stay tuned - I expect lots more fireworks as the planet in HD113766 grows," he adds.

Lisse's paper will be published in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal. ®

*A pre-pay travel system for the good city of London.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.